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Lansford financial woes mount

Published December 26. 2011 05:02PM

The small, struggling borough of Lansford depended on Community Development Block Grants to fix streets, improve water and sewer facilities and tear down deteriorated buildings.

Now, it seems, that money is being taken away as of next year because the borough's population has fallen short of the minimum needed to qualify for the funds, a contention borough officials dispute.

The money federal funds disbursed to the state Department of Community and Economic Development and distributed by counties are available to municipalities of at least 4,000 people, at least 51 percent of whom are low-to-moderate income.

But a few weeks ago, Lansford officials, in the midst of trying to organize a 2012 budget, learned the borough no longer qualifies for the money.

"I regret to inform you that Lansford Borough, Carbon County, is no longer an entitlement entity under the state-administered Community Development Block Grant program. The loss of entitlement is a result of the 2010 Census data that indicates that the borough's population has dropped below the population threshold of 4,000," wrote F. Edward Geiger III, director of DCED's Center for Community Financing.

According to the Census, while Carbon County grew from 58,802 people to 65,249 in the last decade, Lansford's population dropped from 4,230 to 3,941 (6.8 percent).

But at a recent budget meeting, council members said they doubted the accuracy of the Census figures.

Councilman Tommy Vadyak has said even though the borough requires permits for people to move in or out, it's hard for borough officials to keep count because so many people come and go under cover of night. Other council members have said many homes house extended families, and too many people won't reveal who is living with them.

The lack of CDBG money will hit the financially struggling borough hard.

This year, Lansford will receive a $92,264 slice of the CDBG pie. Of that, $75,656 will go toward street improvements on East Bertsch Street (from Walnut to Chestnut), Dock Street (from borough line east, approximately 1,000 feet) and repair/paving/ADA handicap improvement. The remaining $16,608 will be used for administration of the grant.

In his letter, Geiger went on to say the borough could still ask for help "through the county's annual allocation of CDBG funds, as well as through the CDBG Competitive Program," he wrote.

County commissioner's Chairman William O'Gurek said the county would do what it can to help the small borough.

"It's unfortunate Lansford will no longer receive a direct benefit as an entitlement community under Block Grant guidelines because it was able to get some things accomplished each year. The town received about $100,000 annually. That's a lot of money to do without," he said.

"I would think in the future, the board of commissioners will try to help the community, as it has done in the past with just about every other non-entitlement community. Unfortunately, the county only received about $250,000 a year to divvy up among the smaller towns, of which there are about 18," O'Gurek said.

"As commissioners, we have always tried to share that money with each of those towns and townships. I am sure the commissioners will be glad to help Lansford too since it is losing its entitlement," he said.

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